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Rangers trying to hang on to lead in AL West

HOUSTON — Following their victory over the Astros on Friday night, a win that bumped their lead to 4 1/2 games in the American League West, the Rangers appeared on the brink of a coronation celebrating their sensational month.

By Sunday afternoon, two losses to the Astros later, Texas had backed into position of having to fend off the Astros just a while longer. Houston sliced its deficit in the AL West by two games with consecutive wins behind Collin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel, putting the Rangers in position to need a successful week at home against the Tigers and Angels, who are also in the postseason chase, to claim the West title.

“Safe? There’s nothing safe in baseball,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “You’ve got to continue to play. It’s about competing. These guys, they’ve never taken that approach. We’ve been playing from behind all year long. We’ve worked way too hard to get to this point to think that anything is safe. We know this club’s not going to lay down.”

The Rangers trailed by as many as 9 1/2 games in the West this season, but their 16-7 mark in September through Friday extended their division lead to a season-high 4 1/2 games. Now, not only do the Rangers have to worry about fending off the Astros over the final seven games, they’ll have the Angels to deal with for four games this coming weekend at Globe Life Park. The Angels won their fifth consecutive game on Sunday and stand just three games behind the Rangers in the division standings.

“We’re exactly where we want to be,” Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland said. “We’ve played good ball to this point. We’ve worked really hard. Battled a lot to get to where we’re at right now. We’ve still got seven games left, so we’re going to go out each night and try to take what we got in front of us, play hard and give everything we’ve got to the end.”